Friday, November 21, 2003


Given the Senate's rejection of the energy bill and what looks like trouble ahead for the Medicare prescription drug bill, is the Bush Coalition beginning to fray? Bush has been masterful up until now in keeping the two divergent conservative wings in line. However, as trouble in Iraq continues to grow and the economy continues to trudge along without creating jobs, there is a bit of disease among the conservative faithful. Fiscal conservatives have made known their disagreements with Bush Co's brand of Big Government conservatism, but 9/11 and the Iraq war had provided Bush with an opportunity to rally the faithful around common enemies (Al Qaeda, Saddam and anti-war liberals).

It would now seem that many of the folks who believe in fiscal sanity are growing restless. To some degree this may have been inevitable, for fiscal hawks view the world with green eye shade and have proven easy to distract for a long period of time. The administrations huge giveaways to large businesses and its willingness to dabble in protectionism for votes is anathema to true believers.

But what does this all mean for 2004? It is hard to see fiscal hawks running to the polling booths for some of the Democratic contenders. However, Howard Dean or Wes Clark may be able to get some traction. More importantly though, is whether this has any potential blowback for the House and Senate. Interestingly enough, I see very little potential to parlay this into gain for Congressional Democrats. Moderate and fiscal conservative Republicans have broken ranks with the White House in a way that would insulate them from Democratic attacks.

The one issue, though, on which an unraveling GOP might be united is gay marriage. There are only so many limited government, fiscal hawks like Andrew Sullivan. If the Rove gang frames the issue in the right way, they can bring the fiscal conservatives, who harbor some social conservatism, back into the White House's drill line. It will get very interesting between now and November 2004.

(Query- What does it say about Bush Co. that the RNC is airing ads to defend him?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Lost and Annoyed

This might be the most frustrating presidential election ever, for me at least. I was not wowed by anyone, though I flirted with Kerry and Edwards back in the spring and summer. I moved to Team Clark as he moved closer to a run. However, his dismal early perfomances were a bit discouraging. Then came the flag burning amendment, which was the straw that broke this camel's back. So over to the Dean side I was leaning. I could forgive him for his rabidly anti-war supporters; I could even forgive his opposition to rebuilding Iraq (even though I thought he was dead wrong). But I cannot forgive his lurch left on economic issues. First he got all wobbly on free trade (apparently trying to steal Gephardt's thunder in Iowa) and now he is shilling for a bit of the old regulatory state. Dean has transformed from a free market, deregulating, budget balancing Governor to a big government, interventionist, protectionist panderfest. I see no real difference between his economic message and Kucinich's or Gephardt's. Seems that the only folks running for president in my party that still brook any belief in free markets are Kerry (barely), Clark (maybe), Edwards (probably) and Lieberman (definitely).
Is it too late for a 10th candidate to get into the race? Calling Al Gore.. Al Gore.. please come back.

Dean = Kucinich Lite

Just as I was starting to warm to the Doc from Vermont, he goes and opens his mouth again. (Dean Calls For New Controls on Business) According to the story, Dean is hankering for a bit of re-regulation. While one can make valid arguments for regulating the media and public utilities, Dean goes one giant leap further and includes companies that offer stock options, which is just about every corporation in America larger than a mom and pop store.

Now, I realize that certain capitalists have, over the past few years, done more damage to capitalism than the Marxists were ever able to do, but surely the last thing the American economy needs is a wholesale infusion of government red tape. Sure we need more transparency in our financial markets and better oversight and enforcement by our watchdogs such as the SEC. These are the steps we need to save capitalism and to ensure consumer and investor confidence in our economy and its machinations. However, large scale government regulation will do nothing more than place obstacles on the path to economic development.

The problem is that people who think like many of Dean's supporters see every sector ripe for government intervention. They see market failure everywhere they look. They are the sort of folks who think it is somehow wrong to earn a profit. They are people who fail to grasp that incentives beyond altruistic warm fuzzies are needed to drive an economy. They look at taxation in a vacuum, driven by what they see as equitable outcomes, without realizing that minus incentives people will not work or invest. These folks simply refuse to accept that excess regulation drives firms out of the market (cf. rent control).

Beyond the sheer stupidity of such a policy position, this fails to make any political sense. Dean has already captured all but a few hardened lefties and is the clear front-runner for the nomination. Now is the time he ought to start tacking back to the center of the political spectrum. The mistake Al Gore made in 2000 was that he swerved Left to head off Bill Bradley in the early primaries and never came back to the center. Dean seems to be perilously close to repeating that same mistake. After all, does the doctor really need the support of the 200 or so people who actually support Kucinich?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Proud to be a Baystater

In a much anticipated decison, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that "barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution." While the court stopped short of forcing the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, this would certainly pave the way for marriage equality in the very near future (the Court provided some legislative leeway by granting a 180 day period before effect). I have to read the full text of the decision to get a richer understanding of all its implications, though.

Already the Radical Right is talking about federal action to supersede this historic decision. As is standard procedure for the GOP, states' rights only apply when those rights comport with their Radical Right Wing agenda.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

P2004 Battleground

Electability is the buzzword permeating all conversations about P2004 Democratic hopefuls. Each candidate claims to be the only one who can beat Bush. Despite my own love for all things quantitative, this argument will be more about gut feeling and hunch. ( those of you who want statistics to illustrate can find them at either Polling Report or PollKatz)

We live in a country that, even three years after the 2000 election, is very nearly divided 40-40-20. There is no doubt that whomever is the Democratic nominee, he will receive pretty close to his 40% base (as will Bush). The question is who can garner the majority of the 20% up for grabs. A further question is just who that 20% is, or will be as of November 2004.

I would argue that if we allow that uncommitted group to remain as is we increase the likelihood of our defeat. We must transform that bloc by bringing new voters into the system. I am not talking merely of those young people who do not vote, but also of the middle aged folks who have not voted in years, or anyone else for that matter.

We must understand why it is that these non-voters chose not to participate in their democracy. The two main causes are apathy and ignorance. The system, as it now stands, turns off a great number of people who feel as though their voices and their votes do not matter. There are another group of folks who simply do not fathom the relationship between their government and their quality of life.

The Democratic Party needs to reach out to these people and show them that they matter and that the government matters to them. These are people who are largely disenfranchised and without voice. We must give them hope, show them opportunity and provide them with the means of changing America.

Yet, not just any candidate will be able to do this. Why would someone put their hope and trust in someone who is a part of the system? Someone who has been around the block a few times and knows how the play the game? What passion can an insider elicit from the uninvolved? Not very much. For, if this person was capable of inspiring and leading new people into the system, he would have already done so.

This leads to only one conclusion as to who is electable- someone who is outside of the Washington elite, such as Howard Dean (or maybe Wes Clark). Dean has (and Clark had been) attracting broad support from those who have not been a part of the political process before this year. These are the people we MUST have in that 20% bloc if we are to have any chance at winning.

Candidates like John Kerry and Joe Lieberman are content with playing a parlor game of who might be able to pick off a percentage of the unaligned, and maybe (especially with Lieberman) some Republicans. It takes politics as a zero sum game, which does not have to be the case. We have a unique opportunity to expand the democratic franchise to millions of formerly uninvolved Americans. Even if we should go down in flames in November, we will be a stronger country for having increased citizen participation. Turning the apathetic and the ignorant into the knowledgable and engaged is good not only for the Democratic party, but for America and her future well being.

( Corrections in bold. Thanks to R.E. for noticing my mistake)

Friday, November 14, 2003

Wrapped Up or Not?

According to two recent stories,Boston Globe Democratic Insiders, it would seem as though Howard Dean has pretty nearly wrapped up the nomination before a vote has even been cast. In fact Stu Rothenberg has already made such a claim (I'd post the link, but it's subscriber only). Does that mean it is time for everyone else to go home?

Probably not. In fact, keeping a robust debate alive is critical to the success of the eventual Democratic nominee. However, that does not mean that the current charade of nine on a stage ought to continue. Though it would be difficult to achieve, a debate among only those with a chance (Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, Clark, Lieberman and maybe Edwards) would better serve the interests of the Party. If we had a DNC with any credibility, with any muscle, Sharpton, Kucinich and Braun would have been shown the door at least two months ago.

The potential danger in limiting the field is turning off potential Democratic voters who support the more fringe candidates. Conversely, what damage is done to the Party among the vast swath of moderate Americans by having people so far outside of the mainstream carrying the Party's message.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

What is it Worth?

What is it worth to send the Shrub back to Texas? How much anger do you feel each time you read about another American soldier's life wasted all because Bush Co. did not have a plan for post war Iraq? How incensed are you when you realize that half of Bush Co. opted out of the Vietnam War because they had the connections to avoid service, yet they have no reservations about sending other people's sons and daughters off to fight a war that would not have been necessary had Bush the Senior done his job; that was predicated on weapons of mass destruction that appear not to have existed; that alienated almost the entire world community?
Does it make you cringe to think of religious ideologues packing the Federal bench? Do you have nightmares about the debt being left to future generations because of Team Bush's fiscal fiascoes? Does the thought of four more years of John Ashcroft snooping into your computer files and through your trash give you the willies?
Then do something about it! Go here and give just $100 (or more if you have it!). All it takes is for two million Americans to give $100 each and we can end the reign of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Clark in Flames

If the early mistakes and misteps of the Clark brigade was not enough reason to question his ability to win and to govern, then this surely ought to do the trick. The good general seems to favor amending the Constitution. And what weighty matter warrants such a tinkering with our governing document, you ask? Those pesky flag burners, that's what! I realize that good people may differ on this issue, and I realize that some people fail to grasp that true patriotism is allowing people to express their anger towards their government by burning its penultimate symbol. But this strikes me as nothing short of pandering. I suppose Clark supporters would chalk it up to his status as a military man who fought under the flag. I'm not buying what they're selling- not on their candidate and definitely not on this flag burning amendment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Last Person to Leave Turns Out the Light

Just a day and a half removed from the firing of campaign manager, Jim Jordan, Team Kerry has lost two more staffers today. (AP story) The latest out the door are the press secretary and the deputy finance chair. Following up on the theme of yesterday's post, Kerry has now sacked the manager and his base coaches just quit. When does Kerry realize the problem is himself and not his handlers?

We'll Always Have Paris (Hilton, that is)




(Update: The only one of these three that seems to be working is the first one. The second redirects to a personals site, the third seems to be dead.)

Two Whiney Rants for a Gloomy Tuesday

For some reason, people in the Midwest are unaware of the amazing new technology called turn signals. Now, either they fail to teach the proper use of said turn signals in driver education or people just seem to think that their fellow drivers are Ms. Cleo. It is all the more ironic (moronic) when you think of how SLOW these people drive! I'm talking 50 in the far left lane of a three-lane highway. One has to assume the slowness is out of concern for safety. So then why can't you signal to let me know you are about to cut me off?

And, what is with the new J Crew catalog? Over the years the women's section has taken up more and more pages, but this Winter catalog takes the cake. Not only do women get more pages than men, but they now have several of pages smack dab in the middle of the men's section. Can anyone say gender discrimination?

Monday, November 10, 2003

Blame the Manager

So often we refer to the inner workings of campaigns as "inside baseball", and late last night Team Kerry took the proverbial axe to the manager. Obviously there are times when a manager is to blame for his team's failure, but this is clearly not the case. Kerry is an awful candidate, which means Jordan was at the helm of a ship without sails, yet lots of wind. People have been known to walk away from a Kerry appearance muttering to themselves, trying to understand just what it was the Senator said. The man is incapable of giving a straight answer. Instead he wraps himself into verbal pretzels leaving his audience, and perhaps himself, confused. He is a man who has been on at least ten different sides of the Iraq question and even a cursory look at the issues portion of his website will reveal that he hopes to be on both sides of nearly every issue and pander to every group. If Jordan had a good team, with a good pitcher instead of a pander bear, maybe his team would have won. However, he was strapped with a single A pitcher in the World Series. Poor Jim Jordan.

Updated Bio

I am 32 years old and am stuck in the Midwest where I attend law school at a fairly prestigious university[currently reside in Albany (upstate) NY]. [I came here] Prior to moving here I had resided in Albany, NY , originally for graduate school, but ended up ditching the Ph.D. program in favor of a master's and a job. My last position was legislative budget analyst for the NYS Assembly Ways and Means Committee. I have a BA in political science with a minor in economics. My master's is in educational policy analysis, where my areas of interest are teacher policy, school reform and the economics of education.

I attended law school very briefly back when I was 23 [and will return this fall]. After dropping out of law school I went to work with children for a few years. I worked in a short term hospital diversion program for suicidal children ages 4-12; with poor inner city kids; and, as an inclusion assistant in a public school. I returned to school at the age of 28 to pursue a graduate degree.

In my earlier life I held two elected and one appointed municipal offices in Bourne, MA (it's on Cape Cod) where I grew up. I have consulted to several campaigns ranging from state legislative to state-wide races. But the vast majority of that occurred before I'd even turned 23.

My own political beliefs are somewhat idiosyncratic. I have gone from being a conservative Republican to a liberal to a libertarian to what I would now say is New Democrat. It is my views on domestic policy that are probably the most difficult to pigeonhole. I support school choice, but not vouchers. I support gay marriage, but oppose hate crime laws. I believe that the Bill of Rights is ABSOLUTE. I am pro-choice, but believe that Roe v. Wade is indefensible as far as jurisprudence. I tend to view the free market as a better mechanism of distributing goods than the government.

On foreign policy, as you may have noticed, I am what you might call a liberal hawk or an interventionist. I believe that the United States has a moral responsibility to promote democracy and human rights around the globe. I abhor realpolitik and wish that it, along with Henry Kissinger, would go far, far away. I believe that all too often we define US interests in their narrowest sense- immediate security and economic- rather than taking a broad view and including the promotion of human rights as a vital interest.

My hobbies are music, books, bodybuilding and writing (obviously).

This semester my classes are as follows-- Torts, Contracts, Property, Legal Research and Writing. Torts is my favorite class. Even though I really like my Property professor, how much can one enjoy a semester full of fee simple, defeasible fees, implied warranty of habitability, assignments, subleases, etc?

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Taking Back Our Country

This may sound like the bitter screed of a New Englander, or at least an upper East Coast elitist. But for the past three decades, since Tricky Dick's Southern Strategy, America has been held hostage by a Luddite minority. I am referring to the South and the border states where folks vote based on god, guns and gays.

Whether it is the Southern leadership of Congress or the South's inordinate influence on presidential politics, we have a major problem in America. Rather than progress into a new century, the Southern bible-thumpers have chosen instead to turn the clock back to the Dark Ages. Despite the fact that the current GOP leadership's fiscal policies are extremely adverse to the interest of poor Southern folks, they remain entranced with the gospel of team GOP, who have deliberately appealed to racism, homophobia and religious extremism.

It is not all that different than how radical Muslim societies operate- fill the people's minds with fear and hatred so that they are too busy to realize that the regime is fleecing them. There is something mildly ironic that Team Bush enjoys its greatest support for the war against fundamentalism from our own most fundamental faction. The Muslim bogeyman has replaced the Evil Empire as the regime's favorite diversionary tactic. From god hating commies to freedom hating Muslims. And we call this progress?

It is high time we take back our country from these troglodytes.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Ignominy in Iraq

Just a few months ago, the President declared victory and an end to major combat operations in Iraq. Yet this week US forces had one of its bloodiest weeks there sustaining 32 casualties. As someone who supported the war and a staunch liberal interventionist, I accept some of the rationale for attacking Iraq (the absolute lack of WMD notwithstanding). However, what I cannot and will not tolerate is this administrations abysmal failure to plan for a post war Iraq.

Whether the Bushies really believed that the Iraqi people would universally welcome us with open arms or that the world community would rush in to Iraq to lend a hand is somewhat irrelevant. Any good planner takes into consideration flaws and potential failures of the primary strategy. All evidence points to a complete absence of alternate planning on the part of this administration. And, if the Bushies had relied on the warm regard of the Iraqi people or the good spiritedness of the world community, they are certainly guilty of more than just a bit of misunderestimation (as the President would say).

How much longer will the American public tolerate the sight of her sons and daughters coming home in flag draped caskets?

This administration has failed to provide the resources necessary to maintain peace in Iraq, which has jeopardized the lives of our servicemen and women. The Bushies have instead tried to change the channel to focus attention on what little positive economic news we have had this week. But as more and more of our soldiers are killed, no amount of economic recovery will erase the picture of a flag draped casket being lowered into the ground and a young widow and her baby crying at the side of the grave. It is an indelible image and one that the American people will carry with them into the voting booths next November.

Agnosticism and the Culture War

Up until very recently I have had very little good to say about Howard Dean and his supporters (especially the latter). I have been a DLC Democrat ever since I switched parties in 1995. I am not ashamed to say that Bill Clinton persuaded me to become a Democrat. More than other politicians he demonstrated that to be a champion of equality one need not become an opponent of the free market and limited government. And until the last week or so, I truly believed that Wes Clark was the person to inherit the Clinton legacy.

Unfortunately I was wrong. Team Clark has been plagued with difficulties since entering the race and his recent comments about the Iraq War have started sounding a bit too much like John "I'm on all 8 sides of the issue" Kerry. Clark's missteps have given me pause to reconsider my own position with respect to the 2004 election and the future of our party and our country.

Tuesday's defeats in Kentucky and Mississippi, coupled with the Arnold's victory in California, leave me with the uneasy feeling that we may be going down in 2004. Too many of the serious candidates for the Democratic nomination believe they can finesse their way to the White House by placating their progressive base without alienating gun toting, Bible thumping conservatives who make up a fair portion of the voters in the South, Midwest and Sunbelt states. This is a losing strategy. Bill Clinton did not get to the White House on mealy mouthed platitudes. He had a bold agenda for a progressive government that was efficient and effective.

If we are to lose is 2004, I want us to go down fighting. I want us to take the Culture War to the conservatives! For too long we have been playing defense. We have been on our heels responding to attacks that we are babykiller, sodomites and tree huggers. As a party, we need to be on the attack against our enemies. We need to make a persuasive case to the American people why equal marriage rights are in line with core American values of freedom and equality. We need to show the people just how the current administration is leading us back to the Dark Ages, driven by a cabal of religious ideologues. We need to explain to the people how Bush's misguided foreign policy is making us less safe. We need to remind the American people that Bush FOUGHT against a Homeland Security Department, fought to keep secret information relating to Saudi ties to terrorism, fought to stonewall the 9-11 Commission. We need to show the middle class how this President's economic policies have thrown us into the sinkhole of a jobless recovery, how this President pays lip service to capitalism and free enterprise while handsomely rewarding his campaign donors with corporate welfare, how Bush's program of borrow and spend will dry up Social Security, stymie private investment and create a huge debt that their children will have to pay.

We need a candidate who will stand up to Team Bush and fight them head on, without compromise and without taking prisoners. And while I claim to be agnostic with respect to the P2004 race, I am certainly aware that only one candidate has thus far exhibited the qualities I made mention of above, Howard Dean.

What a difference a month can make!